22. Business

“Half a pound ten-penny nails.
Half a pound eight-penny nails.
Six of these”:
A black, thread-stripped screw
Placed on the counter.

Don’t she know things’ names?
Peeved, the hardware man
Turned nice and slow.
He took his time.
Round-head screw, he thought–
Man would know its name,
Not “six of these.”
Years she’d come, but now
It’s wearing thin.
Why don’t she go nag
The dry goods man?
I ain’t in no rush,
No errand-boy.
“Round-heads,” Riah prompted.
“While you’re up,
A strut bolt, oval-head.”
Where’s Tom? he thought.
Back home baking pies?

Tom walked through the door.
“Got the manure”:
Last try for the garden.
Riah smiled. She
Liked to shop with him,
Be seen with him.
Crossed her mind
That folks admired Tom.
Wives specially, she thought.
Patty’s husband, Opal’s, and
Jeanette’s, seemed somehow–
Lacquered stiff, face
Dried and far.
An air of bemusement
Circled round their heads,
These men. Words
From wives and children
Hardly pierced–
Distant to their ears
As playground cries.
Asked a question,
They’d nod, eyes averted,
And recede.
But Tom, close at hand;
Ear inclined;
Her, the same.

The shop man strolled back now
With the bag.
He met Tom’s eyes.
Tom drew up erect,
His shoulders tight.
“Let’s go,” he said,
Wishing he had paid;
But Riah
Had laid the money down.

2 Responses to “22. Business”

  1. Lincoln Says:

    I’m enjoying this story. I love the pacing you have achieved.

  2. sshaver Says:

    Response on Welcome Page!

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